07 September 2022 / 3-Min Read
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In all my squash career, I have only broken a handful of rackets. If somehow there was a global database of the number of hours spent on court and the number of rackets broken, I feel I would be vert near the bottom of the list. I clearly remember using one Dunlop ProSelect racket until I had scrapped away a sizeable gap in the frame. Big enough to put your finger in.
What has this got to do with the side walls, you may ask? Well, side walls break rackets. Not the floor, almost never the front wall, very occasionally the back wall, but those pesky side walls that cause rackets to break. I don't have any scientific evidence to support my claim, but I believe that when a racket hits the wall and stays in contact with it for a few moments, the vibration has nowhere to go and stays within the racket.
You've probably done it many times: you misjudge the distance to the wall and hit the racket a few centimetres (an inch or so for my British readers) against the side wall before your intended contact point. The line along you arm, wrist and racket is NOT straight; it's bent at the wrist.
Every single time I go on court, in fact, as part of my heat up, I stand about 1.5 metres (5 feet) away from the side wall and swing my racket about waist high. My objective is to brush the side wall, with the top of the racket just skimming the surface of the wall. I swing forehand and backhand about a 100 times.
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I fully accept that this has no direct relation to real world match situations, but if you can't do it standing still, you sure as heck won't be able to do it moving and in the heat of a battle. I have confidence in myself that I can do it in most situations. Ask yourself this, if you watch professional squash, when was the last time you saw a pro hit the racket against the side wall because they misjudged the distance?
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The next reason the side walls can be your friends or enemies is to do with tactical situations. This is where it could get a little philosophical. When I an on court and somebody hits a really tight shot, you know the kind, the ones that seem to stick to the side wall, I relish the challenge. My objective is clear: hit it back just as tight. Because I am confident of my ability brushing the side wall, my opponent gains no psychological advantage over me. I'm not scared when it happens, but many club players panic.
The change in perception between "enemy" to "friend" when thinking about the side walls, means I view them as helping win points. They cause my opponents problems, not me. I don't mean to suggest that I never make mistakes or hit weak shots when the ball is tight to the wall, it's just that I don't view that situation as a negative.
One last point, when I perform solo drills that require a set number of shots with mistakes, I purposefully try to hit the ball tight. I don't try to make life easy for me, just to finish the drill. I am trying to make myself make a mistake. I am playing "against" myself. It's a small change in approach, but one that I feel is worth it.
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